For this project, I collaborated with gracious clients from OVA Studios (http://www.ovastudio.com/) to design and create a playable game demo for their product, a children’s building block toy by the name of PandaBlocs.
I will first post screenshots of the demo, and then paste the design document.
Placeholder terrain generated with a height map.
L-click places blocks horizontally, R-click places blocks vertically.
Blocks recognize the terrain height at the point they are placed, and land accordingly.
This was a bit tricky to convert the mouse coordinates which occur in 2D space, into world coordinates in 3D space, and is still a bit jittery on steep slopes or extremely distant terrain features.
ITGM 351 – Assignment 03
Game Title: Panda Hotel
Vision: To promote creativity among young children while simultaneously offering a safe environment for play
Genre: Sandbox, Puzzle
Differentiating selling points: Build with blocks without the need to sort and store them when finished, share your creations on the internet in a vast assets library, allow friends and NPCs to interact with your creations
Concept: Build freely in a 3D world using small rectangular prisms as the base unit
Story: Pandas are on holiday! Attract traveling pandas to your resort by building homes and attractions, and invite your friends over to visit or build together in the same world.
Target audience: 6+
Release date: 2013, to be announced
Platform: PC-based browser game on a social network
Players: 1 player / 2+ players social play enabled over internet, maximum 8 simultaneous players in one world
The player avatar is able to move around a 3D world, where solids are composed of the same basic unit – the PandaBloc. The player is able to place blocks where they click, to create objects or structures.
For every 250 blocks used, an NPC Panda will enter the world and begin interacting with the environment, living in/climbing on/etc., the structures that the player built. These pandas can vary in appearance, with rarer pandas having distinctive visual effects or accessories.
An achievement menu defines goals for the player; upon completion the player is rewarded, usually with more PandaBlocs to increase their building capabilities, but sometimes with rarer and more desirable items.
The game contains several hooks to make it desirable to continue playing.
Freeform, achievement-based play with rewards for each achievement
Cuteness factor of NPC pandas – can be interacted with by clicking or tapping, will react amiably
Collectability of NPC panda types – rare pandas, sets of colors, coordinated accessories, etc.
Social aspect of cooperating to build with friends or simply showing off creations to them
Fame-increasing aspect of skillfully building a complex structure that is uploaded to the asset library, where it can be rated and downloaded for use by other players
Based on existing social and console games, there is evidence that the above psychological hooks are effective at forming an emotional attachment between the player and the game.
Games which include a collection mechanic for large numbers of differing creatures, such as the Pokemon series, the Mushroom Garden line of apps or Dragonvale have a highly addictive quality due to the desire to fill in a large and periodically increasing roster of fictional creatures.
Social network games like Restaurant City and FarmVille make use of a function that allows friends who also play the game to visit the home spaces of other players, often conferring bonuses to the host player. This kind of system makes it desirable for players to expand their network of friends who also play the game, in order to maximize benefit to them.
The Google SketchUp Warehouse, while not directly related to a game, nevertheless shows that there is a human desire to show off what one can do, to the rest of the community. In a game based on constructing objects using simple core components, a gallery of complicated community-created assets would certainly thrive.
There are a few levels of reward systems to keep the player satisfied.
First, players start with a limited pool of PandaBlocs – 500 to be precise. Every 250 blocks placed attracts a random NPC panda to the world. Rarer pandas have more outstanding appearances.
Second, the pool of 500 blocks can be increased by completing tasks/achievements in the game. Based on the difficulty of the achievement, a commensurate reward of more PandaBlocs is gained. Early-game achievements offer 50-block to 250-block rewards. Later achievements can and will award larger quantities of blocks, with rewards in the thousands being infrequent but possible. The average late-game achievement reward lies within the 500-block to 750-block range.
Third, there are hidden easter eggs scattered around the world. For example, a player who builds a tall structure that can reach the cloud layer (which is comparatively a lot closer to the ground than in the real world) will find that clouds can be walked on and built on – allowing the creation of sky resorts or flying cities, and unlocking rare Winged Pandas as an NPC that can appear in the world. These easter eggs are never explicitly hinted at, and are left to the player to discover. However, their general presence is shown by a “throwaway” easter egg that will be accessed during the earliest stages of the game. If the player inadvertently places blocks over an uncommonly large and colorful flower, the flower will transform into a decorative item that can be obtained and placed at the player’s desired location (this is not the case for normal terrain greenery which is overridden by blocks). This easter egg serves to enlighten the player that certain unconventional actions may produce a desirable effect.
Fourth, some achievements will award specific items instead of blocks. These range from prefabricated structures or doodads that can be placed in the world, to accessories that can be placed on the NPC pandas to change their appearances (eg. ribbons, bow ties, hats, fur dye to change colors). Additionally, blocks of new materials can be obtained this way, eg. gold PandaBlocs, glass PandaBlocs, but these will be limited in number and unsuited for large building projects, instead being used as highlights for structures made from regular blocks.
Options exist for monetizing the game, though they need not be employed to make the game work.
The PandaBloc unit can be purchased in bulk, for those who wish to build more complex structures without meeting the achievement requirements in order to earn more blocks.
The PandaBlocs of unconventional materials can also be purchased in bulk, which is difficult to attain in-game due to the low supply. This allows structures to be made entirely of rare blocks, though there is no merit beyond aesthetics in doing this.
Panda tenants can be purchased, particularly those of a specific appearance. This is desirable for players who compulsively wish to complete a set (eg. Rainbow Pandas, Beachwear Pandas, etc.) or simply attain a relatively rare and outstanding NPC for their world (eg. Panda with sparkling aura, fashionable outfit, Wings, special behaviors like dancing or performing tricks, etc.).
Finally, accessories to place on the pandas or in the world, which are normally found via achievements, may be purchased for immediate access and use.
The level of player customization is fairly low, by intentional design.
The player avatar is not seen by the controlling player, as the point of view is first person. Avatars of visiting players are represented by basic Pandas with names over their heads.
In this sense, there is little customization possible for the player with regard to their avatar – the focus and intent is that the player views the world as the object they need to customize, as opposed to the usually unseen avatar, that is simply a vehicle to traverse and interact with the world.
W/A/S/D to move around
Mouselook smoothly changes field of view, with faint crosshairs in center screen
Clicking left mouse places a block at the crosshairs, within roughly 10 in-game meters of the avatar, unless the crosshairs are over an NPC Panda, in which case the mouse click will “pat” or “stroke” the panda causing a happy reaction
Clicking left mouse and dragging places a line of blocks smoothly
Clicking left mouse and dragging while pressing the SHIFT key enables a planar area to be delineated, which will be filled with blocks upon the release of the SHIFT key
Clicking right mouse brings up context-sensitive options such as rotate block or placing an accessory on the targeted NPC Panda
Pressing TAB toggles between placing and removing blocks, this alters the functionality of the basic left click
Extensibility of controls:
As the controls are so simple, they can be extended in the future, should additional needs arise. Currently the planned gameplay can be entirely encompassed with these few simple controls.
The PandaBlocs are the most important element of the game, visually.
While the terrain is formed from PandaBloc-shaped elements, it is still naturalistically colored. Grass blocks will have the appropriate texture, not unlike a higher resolution version of that seen in games like Minecraft or Terraria.
However, the PandaBlocs that are placed by the player avatar look exactly like those in the real-world product. Procedurally-generated bamboo wood texture will be used to prevent overly strong pattern recognition from kicking in due to repeated textures.
Prefabricated structures can have basic color changes, and the player is also able to change the color of blocks with the correct item attained through achievements.
The Panda NPCs are largely naturalistic in appearance instead of stylized, cashing in on the natural charm of the panda and the simple natural color scheme and body shape. The more exotic pandas are thereby made more obvious and interesting to collect. They will wander around the world, staying within a medium radius of player-built structures. Bamboo will occasionally grow from ground that is not built upon, which the pandas can eat, but lack of bamboo is not a negative factor – the act of eating wild bamboo is simply a more complex form of idle animation to increase the realism and immersion of the world.
As the entire world is composed of PandaBlocs, the world has a pixelated appearance, similar to Minecraft or 3D Dot Game Heroes.
The notable difference is that the base unit of the world is not a cube, but a rectangular prism.
There is an advantage, in that the smaller base unit allows for more fine detail, and by combining many rectangular prisms, the dimensions are such that a cube can be formed.
There are only a few player stats that matter. Conventional stats such as Health/Gold/Experience Points do not exist, as this game does not rely on these mechanics at all.
The most notable stat is the number of PandaBlocs available to the player, as well as the total number of blocks currently placed in the game world.
Next is the number of achievements completed, which is largely for bragging rights and/or the sake of completion.
The last stat shows the number of pandas attracted to the player’s Panda Hotel, with a sub-stat showing the number of unique panda appearances seen. This stat is purely for the sake of collection/completion.
Three modes of play exist.
First is the standard single player mode, which encompasses normal gameplay mentioned above.
Second is the cooperative building mode, where using the internet the player can invite their social contacts who also play the game to enter their world and build structures with them. Building in this mode temporarily sets all participants to use the host’s pool of PandaBlocs, but any achievements earned by players credit both the host and any participants (who will be granted their rewards the next time they enter their own world, whether it is in single player or as a cooperative mode host).
Third is the “showing off” mode, whereby the host player can invite other players to view their world without any building rights.
Data management and profile:
Each player avatar has its own world which is tied to it, and these are linked into a single save file. This save file can be distributed, should the player desire it, freely sharing their progress. However, the player avatar name is set in the save file and cannot be changed, therefore anyone making use of the distributed save file must play using the avatar name of the original creator.
A more desirable and supported method of sharing progress is to upload a structure (designated by delineating an X by Y by Z area with the mouse, or selecting “all touching blocks”) to the asset library. Other players may then view, rate, and download the structure to use in their own world with no further limitations.